We’ve all heard the old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and nowhere did these words ring with more truth than in 19th Century pioneer Ontario. Back then, solutions to problems had to be found or else you suffered the consequence. Through combinations of luck, patience, skill and determination, an Otonabee Township farmer, named David Fife, rescued one of five strands of wheat and essentially built a nation.
In the 1840’s, David Fife, a Scottish immigrant farming in the Lang-Keene area, realized a hardy strain of wheat, resistant to disease and frost, was a vital necessity. Noticing that one wheat-strand, grown from seeds sent from Scotland seemed hardier than others. David carefully separated and nurtured this strain. His effort became known as Red Fife Wheat and the fame of its durability spread to Western Canada. It’s argued that, without David’s invention, the Canadian Prairies wouldn’t have obtained a reputation as ‘the breadbasket of the world.’ Bountiful wheat harvests needed transportation to world markets, so Red Fife Wheat was a contributing factor in constructing the Canadian rail system which, by the way, would bind this disparate string of settlements into the Dominion of Canada.
It’s become a remarkable truth of history that, from one small, fragile strand of wheat, David Fife grew a nation.